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Ghost Kitchens: The New (Not So Spooky) Way to Eat In

A long exposure of chefs rushing about a kitchen, preparing food.
zhu difeng/Shutterstock

No, spooks and spirits aren’t operating the grill at your local diner. Ghost kitchens aren’t scary, they’re efficient. Learn about this new restaurant trend and why it’s great for eating in.

The age of food delivery has its advantages, like the ability to satisfy even the strangest gustatory cravings at any hour. It comes with its share of problems, too, though. Restaurants find their lobbies packed, not with guests, but with delivery drivers. And if you do want to dine-out, enjoy the ambiance, and forgo a Styrofoam container, your experience tends to fall short.

That’s because the restaurant, which might look entirely empty, is actually bustling, trying to fill its take-out demands. The ever-growing delivery business takes the staff’s attention away from in-house guests.

Restaurants have spent the last several years trying to negotiate this problem. The ghost kitchen seems to be the answer.

What Is a Ghost Kitchen?

A ghost kitchen isn’t run by ghouls and spirits, as the name implies. Instead, it’s a stand-alone kitchen with no dine-in space. It’s typically run by a cook or two, but no other staff. The growing presence of ghost kitchens in big cities across the country is changing the restaurant game.

Ghost kitchens are for take-out orders only. There’s no drool-inducing display case, bar area, or worn-out sofa to sit on while you wait for a table. It’s merely a kitchen and a virtual kiosk.

Larger restaurant chains have started to use ghost kitchens to keep delivery driver traffic out of the restaurant lobby. Smaller food startups are purchasing or renting them as their only distribution point.

Since ghost kitchens are surprisingly inexpensive to rent, own, or run, they create the option for more creative food ventures to coexist.

What Ghost Kitchen’s Mean for Guests 

From a consumer’s standpoint, ghost kitchens are great news. They mean more variety when it comes to take-out because they make more food startups economically feasible. However, they also give customers a streamlined way to pick-up their usual Friday night pizza.

Many ghost kitchens have a street-facing kiosk from which people can order. Most also allow virtual orders to go directly to the kitchen, rather than through third-party delivery apps. Customers can simply pick up from the ghost kitchen’s window and avoid a crowded restaurant lobby and third-party fees.

The new concept also keeps delivery drivers out of restaurants and allows the staff to give dine-in customers its full attention. Nothing’s worse than a flustered host trying to fulfill multiple pickup orders while also seating guests. A ghost kitchen eliminates all of this.

Ghost kitchens are growing in popularity. You can find them all over New York City and Los Angeles. But expect to see them in more cities as the trend progresses. Again, because they’re surprisingly cheap to rent and manage, and given that many people prefer takeout these days, ghost kitchens are unlikely to disappear any time soon.

So, next time you want to order takeout, consider a ghost kitchen. If a big chain in your area has one, it can save you the hassle of the restaurant lobby. You’ll also be able to pocket the money you’d normally lose to a delivery driver.

Ghost kitchens focus solely on the food, rather than restaurant operation. Because the staff has less to worry about, they tend to serve better food at a lower price. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?

Lauren Sakiyama Lauren Sakiyama
Lauren Sakiyama is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry. She has managed restaurants, country clubs, and large-scale event operations, but her passion has always been about the food. Read Full Bio »

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